I look into those bright blue eyes, so filled with wonder, always twinkling with mischief, and I can’t help but think — Is it really over?
Are the heavy days behind us? Have we really come out the other side?
It can be so easy to forget where we’ve been. The screaming. The incessant wakings. The constant doctor visits. The despair. They were a seemingly permanent fixture of my life back then.
But these days… these days, life is an endless cycle of sweeping up crushed cheerios and strapping on the same pair of velcro sandals 4 separate times before walking out the door. It’s a maze of broken toys, illogical tantrums, and stained dinosaur tees. That impossibly fussy baby is now a full blown toddler, relentless in his attempts to keep up with his older sister. He takes great joy in mimicking all that she does, including that legendary toddler stubbornness. He giggles and insists, “I not a baby” at every opportunity.
And he’s right. That squishy baby face somehow turned into that of a little boy overnight.
In the busyness of it all, in the hum drum of everyday life, it’s easy to get caught up. It’s easy to forget until something, even the tiniest trigger, pulls me back to where we were just one year ago.
The thing about trauma is that it’s always with you, even after you have seemingly moved on. Processing it takes time and distance, two things which feel impossible when the days roll into a continuous blur and the screaming never stops.
But at some point, it does. And the funny thing is, after an eternity of waiting for silence, it’s easy to overlook when it finally happens. It’s as if, one ordinary day, you look around and realize that you have eaten three meals every day for the past week and been able to decompress with a good book before bed. You had almost forgotten what books and beds were since they had been replaced with rocking chairs and an inability to focus. It’s as if, with the snap of the fingers, a grisly chapter ends and a new, more hopeful one begins.
But, like every good book, the pages that came before are crucial to the rest of the story. So even though we have begun a new chapter, all that we endured remains more than a simple footnote.
I remember it. I see it.
It’s in the middle of a busy shopping trip or a clinic waiting room that I see myself in someone else. In the mother whose eyes weep with desperation, though tears may fail. In the woman who can’t bring herself to answer the distressed phone call of a friend because she’s barely hanging on herself.
I should resolve to say something uplifting in those moments because I know it was those same rare buoys of support that kept me going in my darkest days. Oftentimes though, I find myself transported back to that very same situation and, before I know it, the moment has passed.
I keep waiting for the day I will be able to truly move on but I’m not sure it will ever come. And the longer it goes on, the more I wonder whether that is simply a blessing in disguise. Perhaps I was never meant to forget. Perhaps that’s the whole point. We suffered together, jointly, and just maybe for a reason.
These days, it’s still easy to get lost in the memories but, as time goes on, I suspect it will get easier to convert them to simple empathy and be the blessing someone else needs in their own moment of darkness. For all that we endured, I am hopeful that someday I can be a light for others, even if forgetting is never out of reach.
So today, as his second birthday draws near, I find myself ceaselessly amazed by the tiny person he has become. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around how much things have changed from this time last year, so much so that it can sometimes feel like a trick.
Is it really over? Really?
I couldn’t imagine it back then, though I longed for it each day. Now I’m starting to realize that it’s not really over. It never will be. Circumstances have changed, thankfully, in a multitude of wonderful ways; but our story continues. We’re only at chapter 2 and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.